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The best-case scenario was that the Hawks would get the No. 1 and No. 9 overall picks. The worst-case scenario was the Hawks got only the No. 9 pick.
The Pelicans won the lottery – and the right to draft Duke sensation Zion Williamson. They were followed by the Grizzlies, Knicks, Lakers, Cavaliers, Suns and Bulls. The Wizards will pick between the Hawks at No. 9. The end of the lottery fell to form with the Timberwolves, Hornets, Heat and Celtics.
It did not go unnoticed that when Williamson, from Spartenburg, South Carolina, walked into the nearly empty ball room that was used for the televised lottery show, he stopped at the Hawks podium and rubbed their logo.
“It would have been nice to get a top-5 pick,” Hawks principal owner Tony Ressler said. “We put ourselves in position to get two top-10 picks. That’s what we have. It would have been nice to get one through four but it didn’t happen. You can’t worry about what didn’t happen. You have to worry about what can happen.”
Hawks’ representatives were dressed and ready for the potentially franchise altering lottery. Co-owner Jami Gertz, and wife of Ressler, represented the Hawks on stage for the big reveal, after the process was conducted under heavy security and secrecy at the hotel. Ping pong balls and complicated odds affected the fates of the Hawks and the 13 other lottery teams. Gertz repeated her role as good luck charm after she was the representative last year when the Hawks moved up one spot to No. 3 overall. They selected Luka Donic with the pick and traded him to the Mavericks for Young in a deal arranged before the draft. The two are the top contenders for Rookie of the Year.
The Hawks also received a chance at the Mavericks’ first-round pick this year, top-5 protected, in the deal which added much intrigue to this lottery. The best pick the Hawks could receive from the Mavericks was No. 9 due to the new lottery rules that debuted this year. After their slim chances at picks Nos. 1-4, which the Mavericks would keep, they could not select Nos. 5-8 due to the rules. The Mavericks had a high of 46.4% chance at No. 9 and 24.3% at No. 10.
Gertz wore a black dress with red carnations for her television appearance. She secured a red ribbon to her bra strap – a superstition handed down from her mother – for good luck again this year. And she ate another piece of chocolate cake.
“I thought these were the colors of our team right now, the red, the black, the green,” Gertz said before the event. “So I just thought I’d be thematic this year. Being the actress, I thought I’d bring a little color.”
While Gertz has her superstitions, Schlenk does not.
“It’s out of my hands,” he said beforehand.
It will be in Schlenk’s hands down as the draft order has been established and the Hawks know exactly where they will select. Pre-draft workouts will begin in earnest as the franchise narrows its choices.
The Hawks had Michelle Leftwich, vice president of salary cap administration, again represent the team in the sequestered draft room.
The Hawks entered the draft lottery with the fifth-worst record in the NBA at 29-53. That gave them a 10.5% chance at each pick Nos. 1-4. They had just a 2.2% chance to remain at No. 5. They had a 19.6% chance at No. 6, a 26.7% chance at No. 7, an 8.8% chance at No. 8 and a 0.6% chance at No. 9, the worst they could do with their own first-round pick.
The Mavericks had a 6.0% chance at the No. 1 overall pick and a combined 26% chance to land in the top 5. A pick that high meant the Mavs would keep their first-round pick and the Hawks would be eligible for their first-round pick, again top-5 protected, next year. The pick is top-3 protected in 2021 and 2022 and unprotected in 2023.
The Knicks, Cavaliers and Suns all had a 14.0% chance and the Bulls had a 12.5% chance at the No. 1 pick as the only teams with better odds than the Hawks.
The Hawks also have three second-round picks this year. The will have their own at No. 35 overall, the Lakers’ at No. 41 and the Hornets’ at No. 44.
Schlenk said last week that it is unlikely the team will make five selections in the draft or bring all five players to training camp. A trade, perhaps on draft night, or the selection of a player to remain or play overseas are likely options. Schlenk reiterated that stance again right before the lottery.
Gertz certainly understood the importance of this lottery and how it could accelerate the rebuilding process about to enter a third season under new ownership and management. You see, being from Chicago, she had historical reference.
“I believe whoever we get will bring greatness to Atlanta,” Gertz said. “We are bringing greatness to Atlanta. That’s just how I feel. I don’t know when but I know it will happen. …
“They’re due. I’m from Chicago. I was a Cubs fan. You sometimes have to wait a long time. Change takes a while. It’s not instantaneous.”
Still, a giant step could still be made.